Specialty Crops Newsletter | November 2022

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USDA AMS Specialty crops newsletter email banner. Left to Right. Image 1 variety garden vegetables, Image 2 variety whole fruits, Image 3 Mixed Nuts

November 2022

A Message to Our Industry Partners

USDA Appoints Members to Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) appointed 25 industry representatives to serve on the Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee (FVIAC). The reappointed and newly appointed members will serve two-year terms beginning immediately and ending in October 2024.

Photo collage of advisory members

Originally chartered in 2001, the FVIAC advises the Secretary of Agriculture on issues affecting the fruit and vegetable industry. Committee members represent organic and non-organic growers, shippers, wholesalers, retailers, industry trade associations, importers, processors, foodservice suppliers, food brokers, state departments of agriculture and farmers markets; and represent local, regional, and national levels.

USDA’s $1 Billion Purchase to Support Emergency Food Providers

USDA plans to purchase a variety of U.S. grown agricultural products to support activities to feed kids and families. Potential materials will include fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy, meat, and poultry items.  The funds, provided through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation, (CCC) will support nearly $1 billion to purchase food for emergency food providers like food banks.

Solicitations will be issued soon and will be available electronically through the Web-Based Supply Chain Management (WBSCM) system.  Public WBSCM information is available without an account on the WBSCM Public Procurement Page. All future information regarding this acquisition, including solicitation amendments and award notices, will be published through WBSCM, and on the Agricultural Marketing Service's website at www.ams.usda.gov/selling-food.

To be eligible to submit offers, potential contractors must meet the AMS vendor qualification requirements. The AMS point of contacts for new vendors are Andrea Lang who can be reached by phone at (202) 720-4237 and Diana Dau (202) 378-1075 or by email to NewVendor@usda.gov. 

Details of these requirements are available online. Once qualification requirements have been met, access to WBSCM will be provided. Bids, modifications, withdrawals of bids, and price adjustments shall be submitted using this system. Submission of the above by any means other than WBSCM will be determined non-responsive.

Transition to Organic Partnership Program

USDA recently launched the Organic Transition Initiative – Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) in six regions across the United States.

TOPP supports transitioning and existing organic farmers and producers who face technical, cultural, and market shifts during the first few years of organic certification. TOPP will provide farmer-to-farmer mentoring services, technical assistance and training, community building, and organic workforce training and development.

TOPP is a collaborative effort involving many partners. The six TOPP regions – the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Plains, Northwest, and West/Southwest – will bring together organizations with expertise in organic agriculture and experience serving diverse agricultural communities. Each TOPP region has a mix of states that are well-represented in organic and states that are currently underserved.

The TOPP webpage includes additional information, a map with partner organizations, and an interest form for organic farmers, transitioning farmers, and farm service organizations who want to become involved in this initiative.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), National Organic Program (NOP) is administering TOPP. NOP is a federal regulatory program administered by AMS that develops and enforces consistent national standards for organically produced agricultural products sold in the United States.

OTI graphic of organizations and states

Text List of organizations in the image

USDA Extends Regional Food Business Centers Application Deadline to December 15

USDA extended the deadline for the Request for Applications (RFA) for funding for Regional Food Business Centers to Dec. 15, 2022. USDA also issued an updated RFA (pdf) and application documents to clarify role types (Lead Applicant, Key Partners, and Collaborators) and document requirements. Applicants who have already begun writing their applications should review the updated RFA and make any revisions that may be necessary.

The Regional Food Business Centers will provide coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building to help farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state and local resources, thereby closing the gaps or barriers to success. The Regional Food Business Centers will assist small and mid-sized producers and food and farm businesses with the goal of creating a more resilient, diverse, and competitive food system.

AMS is soliciting applications from organizations across the nation to develop the Regional Food Business Centers, which will be geographically based, serving regional needs. Applicants must define the regions that their proposed Regional Food Business Center will serve, specifying high-needs priority areas within that region. USDA intends to fund one national Tribal Center as well as at least one Regional Food Business Center serving all or part of the following, Priority areas:

  • Colonias (counties on the US/ Mexico border)
  • Persistent poverty or other communities of high need/limited resources areas of the Delta and the Southeast
  • High need areas of Appalachia

USDA intends to fund at least six Regional Food Business Centers which includes at least two additional centers that will serve areas outside the ones listed above.

Application Submission

  • Applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 15, 2022.
  • Applicants need to review their in-progress applications to ensure that they reflect the RFA clarifications.  Applications will be reviewed by panels with expertise in regional food business development and knowledge of the geographic region the applications propose to serve. The reviewers will use the evaluation criteria included in the to ensure the proposed activities fulfill the purpose of Regional Food Business Centers. Applications received after this deadline will not be considered for funding.

For more information visit the Regional Food Business Centers Program webpage, join our weekly “office hours” every Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 ET (registration link is on the website), or contact us at RegionalFoodCenters@usda.gov.

Grants and Opportunities

FDA Announces Final Rule for Food Traceability

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule on food traceability designed to facilitate faster identification and rapid removal of potentially contaminated food from the market, resulting in fewer foodborne illnesses and/or deaths.

Foods subject to the final rule requirements appear on the Food Traceability List (FTL). The FTL includes fresh cut fruits and vegetables, shell eggs, and nut butters, as well as certain fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, ready-to-eat deli salads, cheeses, and seafood products.

At the core of the final rule is a requirement that persons who manufacture, process, pack or hold food on the FTL maintain records including Key Data Elements (KDEs) related to Critical Tracking Events (CTEs). Covered firms and farms, retail food establishments and restaurants will be required to provide information to the FDA within 24 hours, or some reasonable time to which the FDA agrees.

The final rule provides full and partial exemptions for some entities and foods, such as certain small producers, small retail food establishments and restaurants, farms that sell food directly to consumers, and foods that receive certain types of processing, among others.

The final rule aligns with current industry best practices and covers domestic firms, retail food establishments, restaurants, and farms, as well as foreign firms and farms producing food for U.S. consumption.

The Food Traceability Final Rule is a key component of the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint and implements Section 204(d) of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

For More Information


The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Foundation (NASDA) have created a toolkit to increase underserved farmer’s access to new and existing market and USDA services.

Information graphic on removing barriers to USDA GAP programs

In conjunction with USDA AMS, NASDA Foundation, state departments of agriculture, and cooperative extension agencies, the toolkit was piloted in seven states (Virginia, New York, Illinois, Tennessee, Texas, Kentucky and Florida) to bring awareness to the Good Agricultural Practices program and reach out to underserved producers. The website and toolkit detail the specifics of the GAP and GroupGAP programs, their benefits, expected costs, misconceptions, the audit process, and relevant resources.

These resources are now fully accessible online and in PDF form for printing and sharing in future trainings. A recorded train-the-trainer will also soon be available so that state departments of agriculture, cooperative extension and non-governmental organizations can provide the new material to growers and other stakeholders.

Explore the website

State of Play: Organic Data Initiative

AMS Market News has made incredible strides in its work on the Organic Data Initiative.

In the last four months, Market News has attended six organic industry events, where representatives engaged with over 600 stakeholders, promoting Market News offerings of organic data, and gathering feedback on customer experience. To assess paths toward improved services, Market News has contracted with a consulting group and multiple land grant universities to survey members of the organic industry on what gaps exist between Market News offerings and the needs of the industry.

Market News has also partnered with land grant universities to pilot the collection of pricing data for both conventional and organic commodities at Farmers Markets. Market News aims to publish these new Farmers Market price reports in the coming year.